It’s been about six years since I, wearily, left the Congo. Tired, and burnt out, it nonetheless remains a strong memory - fraught with vivid stories and half-remembered fears, stuck in frozen time.
As part of my work, I have been asked to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo for two months, to observe the climate and the processes surrounding the second-ever elections since its independence in 1960.
It doesn’t hit me that I’m really going back to Congo until, after an 8-hour flight from Washington D.C. to Brussels, and a 7-hour flight from Brussels to Yaounde (Cameroon), we slowly descent over Cameroon.
I’ve never set foot in Cameroon, but flying over its sparse forests, punctuated here and there by thin clay roads, and with clearings giving way to metal-roofed hangars, houses and huts, I am reminded of Central Africa. At the risk of restating trite and perhaps naïve/colonial platitudes, I love seeing the surface of the earth as it was meant to be - at its most natural, lightly touched by human habitation. Perhaps nature here is particularly indomitable and impossible to control into ordered patches of vegetations. Or perhaps instead, city planners in Yaounde don't have the right tools to push the forest to the far corners of the city, loosing the battle between nature and urban sprawl.
I fall in love again with the tall, slender trees that reach their trunks and branches to the sun, topped like a scalp with a thick layer of dark leaves.
Another couple of hours until we arrive in Kinshasa. I am curious to see if it has changed. I hear it has.